Around 1916, while Scott Joplin was making the last of his piano-roll recordings, Henry Cowell was beginning the work he would eventually publish as "New Musical Resources" in 1930. Cowell's book discusses Just Intonation, though only as an inspiration for building exotic equal-temperament chords. He also proposed the use of simultaneous voices in different tempos, related by ratios. To achieve the required precise control of timings, Cowell suggested using the player-piano. From the 1940's onward, Conlon Nancarrow became the most accomplished practitioner of this polytempo technique, producing almost all of his compositions in the form of player-piano rolls. James Tenney added JI to this line of development with his 1976 piece, Spectral Canon for Conlon Nancarrow, an algorithmic composition for player-piano tuned in Just Intonation.
In these pieces, Joplin is reunited with these later threads of player-piano history. Substituting the computer for the player-piano, we gain a control and flexibility in the pitch domain to match that of the time domain.
Loose-Leaf Rag was derived from Joplin's Fig Leaf Rag, Maple Leaf Rag, and Palm Leaf Rag. It has a conventional ragtime song structure (AABBACCDD).
Elusive Sounds (my personal favorite) employs simultaneous voices in differing tempos, related by relatively complex ratios such as 8:5, 7:5, 12:7, and 17:11.
Catnip Rag occupies a middle ground between the styles of the other two pieces, and mostly uses simpler tempo-ratios, such as 4:3 and 5:4.
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